Saturday, October 29, 2011

Theology and Leadership

After reading A Theological Primer on Leadership by Mark Lamport, I thought I would write down a few of the main ideas of leadership described, if only to help me organize my thoughts about the ideas.

Throughout the Bible, God searches for leaders with the following criteria:

Lamport asks and suggests answers to four primary questions:

  1. How shall we describe leadership: Any person who influences people to accomplish a purpose. I am a worship leader at church -- attempting to influence others to worship -- specifically through singing. I am a leader in the classroom, attempting to influence my students think in a particular way. I am not actively trying to be a leader among my colleagues.
  2. Who qualifies as a leader? An person who influences people to accomplish a purpose.  
  3. How are godly leaders developed?  Potential leaders are developed over a lifetime of seeking God's will throughout many positive and negative life experiences which shape and mold you.
  4. What are some of the qualities of an effective leader?  
    • Vision - seeing how things could be
    • Diligence - Doing the necessary work
    • Determination - persevering in spite of unfavorable circumstances
    • Sacrifice - giving oneself in selfless and loving service to others
    • Reliance - Consistently depending on God for strength 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On The Count of Three

The other day I gave an assessment in class where I tested whether students would do better on instructions given orally or instructions shown on the board.  I read a series of numbers aloud, and then asked them out loud to write down a couple of operations (e.g. add the first two, subtract the second pair, etc.)  After ward they followed a similar set of instructions but they had to read the instructions off the board and do the problems by only seeing instructions.

I expected to find that the students would "fail" the oral assignment, and do much better with the visual.  To my surprise, they did quite well on both, and actually did slightly worse on the visual.  (Not statistically significantly worse however...)

It made me wonder why I feel that my students so often don't follow the instructions I give in class out loud. I suspect that I don't have their full attention as much on a day-to-day basis as I had when the students followed this rather formal assessment.  I know that I often see and hear students talking among each other.

I tried a new idea for some instructions today. I said "Say 'notes out' on the count of three, 1, 2, 3" and everyone emphatically yelled "notes out!"  Some students still struggled to get there notes out -- but they couldn't argue that they didn't hear it.  I think I may try this technique more often.

Would You Like to Quit?

Our school uses a school wide database system to record grades and communicate home to parents. I won't say much about it (after all mom always said if you can't say something nice, then don't say nothin' at all) except to say that it is often buggy, and on the teacher side of things, very difficult to work with.  One thing I enjoy about the program however is every time we log out when we are finished using it, it asks us this question:
It always makes me chuckle because a lot of times, after I've spent 15 minutes typing in 5 minutes worth of grades, it makes me feel like quitting.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Vocabulary Model

While reading Multiple Path's to Literacy, I was reminded of a technique I learned in a workshop once about teaching vocabulary -- especially math and science concepts.  Gipe called it the Frayer Model of vocabulary, which is summarized in the picture to the right. In this model, a definition, and examples are provided, as well as useful facts or characteristics. Also, several non-examples are listed, and I remember the presenter suggesting that students should list examples and non-examples -- and that you can provide equal praises for both.

For example, today we learned the vocabulary word "proportion" in algebra. The definition I provided was "an equation that compares two fractions"  Then I provided several examples such as 1/3 = 3/9 and x/5 = 24/40. One of the characteristics we mentioned was that true proportions can be cross-multiplied, which results in another true equation which doesn't contain fractions.  We also provided a non-example of 3/x=5 and also x/2+5 = 3/8.  

In physics, I have a similar model for teaching different quantities. I give a definition, a have a category called units, a category for examples, and a category for formulas containing that quantity. For example, "force" might have: 
   def: a push or pull on something
   units: Newtons, lbs, tons, ounces, (1 lb = 4.45 N) (16 ounces = 1 lb)
   examples: an apple weighs 1N.  Throwing a ball requires around 50 N.  
   formulas: Fnet = m*a,    Fgrav = m*g,  Ffric = mu*Fnormal ...

I like teaching vocabulary in a direct way -- and consistently.  I do that well in physics, but am not as organized in algebra. I'd like to consider giving each student a notebook to create a classroom dictionary -- but wonder if that's too childish for a high-school classroom? 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Revisions and Edits

In Multiple Paths to Literacy, Joan Gipe makes a distinction between revision and editing that I had never thought of before.  She describes revision as be concerned with content and editing being concerned with mechanics.  Revision is when you consider reordering the information, grouping it together or splitting things apart, adding material or taking away material, etc.  Editing is when you scour the paper with a fine-toothed comb looking for missing periods, misspellings, and other grammar mistakes.

I know that I am a very good editor usually. My brain is wired that way, to understand the rules of writing and to abide by them.  My weakness is in revising and considering what content should and should not be in a piece of writing.

What struck me most about the distinction was the emphasis that Gipe put on revision. She suggested students do several drafts where all that is done in between is revision. She even said that good writers are seldom concerned about correct language conventions until they are ready to edit their work. This surprised me, having such an editors mindset. I think first about grammar mistakes. It makes sense however -- why bother thinking about whether that sentence needs a comma or a semi-colon if you're not even sure if that sentence is going to be in the final draft at all?!  Who if you use who versus whom if you're still considering what characters to describe in your story and how much description to use?

This suggested to me the principle of the plank-in-the-eye image from the Bible. I am often concerned with the small specks in my writing, and the few pieces of writing my students turn in. What I need to focus more attention to is the outlining, the content, and the revision steps that my students and I go through when producing a paper.

I also need to implement a draft or two with the lab reports my students produce, so that they can look at what they have and what they need to add/change. Currently I only look at their lab reports after they are "finished" and I immediately grade that piece. Consequently, their writing is usually poor, and missing crucial elements. I do allow them to resubmit a second draft, but it might be more beneficial to all of us if we all did that purposefully, rather than some doing it haphazardly.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Meebo Conversation

Below is a picture of a conversation I just had with one of my students:

I have to admit that sometimes I really love teaching, and technology.

Perhaps someday when I have a little more time, I'll write up some instructions for including a Meebo Chat widget on a website or blog, so y'all can experience this sort of coolness too.  Feel free to try it out yourself if you want, I've got one installed in the top left corner of this blog.

Update: Just learned today (June 9, 2012) that Meebo will not be continuing this chat feature, as of July 12.  They have been bought by google, and all website based chat widgets such as these will become disfunctional. Bummer.

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